Category Archives: Animal Life

Beach Walk, July 30, 2018, aka, The New Critter Walk

My last beach walk until this fall makes me sad, but it was a great one nonetheless, including some critters I had not seen before, and for me, that is always exciting ūüôā This walk was on the north end of the island, from around the heel to about a mile west.

Big and deep enough for small children to swim in.

But first, a pet peeve. This hole was only the first of four I found and filled on this day. We must do more to educate the public about the dangers posed to sea turtles by sand castles and holes left on the beach. Building and digging while you are at the beach is a lot of fun. However, when sea turtles hatch from their nests, they can become stuck in holes or blocked by tall walls of sand. This can create a number of problems for sea turtle hatchlings. If they are unable to get out of the holes, they could be eaten by another animal or die from exposure to the elements. One of the things you can do to help sea turtles is to fill in holes you make and knock down the sand castles you build.

On my beach walk on July 21¬†I was very happy to find a bunch of critters living on and in a Knobbed Whelk shell, but I think my find this day beats all other critter communities I have found before. I happened upon this big sea sponge, admirable in it’s own right, but on closer inspection I discovered it full of inhabitants, including three I had not found before!! The sponge is likely a species of Branching Tube sponge, but with over 5000 sponge species, specific identification is difficult.

I’m looking over my find when I noticed that part of it was moving. Now sea sponges don’t “move”, even in life, so I looked closer and found this little crab, the Spineback Hairy crab. Well disguised, wouldn’t you say? I first thought was a Hairy Stone crab, but South Carolina is a bit far for it to have traveled from it’s home turf of Australia.¬† Mark this as New Critter #1 for me.¬† Here are a few more views of this uncommon little crab that (click on any image to make it larger)…

Next I found a Sandy Skinned Tunicate attached to it’s relative, a Sea Pork, and shall we just say that the tunicate had been deceased for a while (yuck).¬†I also found a couple Pleated Sea Squirts, but I have found all these critters before.

I very gleefully discovered five Brittle Stars, a close relative to sea stars, and a few small Hitchhiker Sea Anemones. For some reason I did not take an individual  photo of the anemones (very unlike me!!)b but if you look at the large closeup photo of the crab on the sponge, you can see one in the lower right corner. Make those brittle stars New Critter #2, yay!!

And the finds kept coming…

If you look in the center of the sponge you can see a wee red claw. Red? What sort of critter has a red claw (unless it’s been cooked)?

¬†I looked inside and uncovered not one, but two shrimp, shrimp like none I’ve ever seen before. My first thought was that they must be a species of Ghost shrimp, but after much research and a helpful lead from a biologist, I was able to place these in the genus¬†Zuzalpheus, sponge dwelling snapping shrimp of the western Atlantic. Snapping shrimp, an uncommon find on our beaches, are known for the snapping sound they make with that large claw; Google a video sometime. Call these snappers New Critter #3.

As soon as I was done with the sponge I came across New Critter #4, the remains of a dead Purse crab. Not as uncommon as the snapping shrimp, this was still the first one that I have found.

And speaking of Sandbuilder worms, check out the hole colony of them on the Horseshoe Crab shell on the left, while the shell on the right has a colony of Turtle barnacles.

This lovely lady Horseshoe crab was stranded on her back, but still very much alive, so I carried her down to the water and released her.

And just a few final things until we walk again this fall…

 

Beach Walk, July 26, 2018

Mitchelville Beach (Fish Haul Beach Park), looking left to the west.

Yesterday I waled west from Mitchelville Beach for a mile and a half, until I reached the sea wall in Hilton Head Plantation. As you may or may not know, all beaches on the island are “public”, whereas the property that lies behind them is likely private, so when I do this walk (a regular for me) it ends at the wall. If you would also like to make this trip you will need to plan it to start and end within a couple hours of low tide as there are a few tidal creeks to cross and make sure you wear shoes.

Although I always have my eyes open for interesting critters and treasures to collect, I take this route more for the beauty of the walk itself, and the small boneyard beach found at this eastern end of the sea wall.  Continue reading

Beach Walk, July 21, 2018

 

On Port Royal Sound, just west of the heel of the island.

My wanderings are guided by whatever catches my eye.

What you see on a beach walk on this beautiful island can vary so greatly, depending on which beach you start from, the season, the tides, and whether there has been a recent storm to churn things up. I love taking folks out to see what we can discover on the beach, but formal programs cover so little of my time exploring this island so I thought I’d add a virtual beach walk and share what I find. Let me know what you think of this feature in the comments.

It has been raining for days and I was getting stir crazy, even this reader can only read so much. Finally we got a break in the weather today and I headed out this morning just after low tide. I had not actually been to the heel of the island in a few months (terrible!!), so I knew that was where I was going.  What follows are photos of some of the things I saw today and some information that I might have shared if we were exploring together.

Continue reading

New Developments

I’ve run across so many new critters over the past year that my nerdy excitement is in full gear. Some of these critters have been found while doing private beach programs, which is super cool for those who are adventuring with me, and here are a couple of those…

And some of these have been found while wandering alone…

This excitement over new critters leads me to the following developments. First, as y’all know, I’ve been doing programs for the Coastal Discovery Museum for two years now, with the school programs being especially dear to me. Going forward I’ll be adding private beach and nature programs as well. Does someone in your group have a particular love of dolphins, horseshoe crabs, or some other critter? These programs can be tailored in length and content to the desires of your group.I plan on the programs being at Mitchelville Beach, but if you are staying at a beachfront location, I can come to you instead if you prefer. I am obviously not on the island all the time, so I will start posting the dates I am available for tours at the top of the Part-Time Local Facebook page. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, just email me at mary@part-timelocal.com¬†or send me a message on the Facebook page and we can discuss the details.

The second development involves the development of this website. I’ll be adding all these new critters to the “Critters” section of the site, but I’ll also be reworking these pages some to reflect a more correct taxonomy, or classification, of the critters. After I update a particular critter page I post it to the Facebook page so y’all can easily check out the changes if you’s like.

More Than a Wee Bit Dangerous and Still a Whole Lotta Funny…

A few days ago I shared with you our close encounter with blue crabs in a tide pool.  Today, I had another close encounter, but with a much larger critter.

The marsh directly off the second boardwalk. This is where I go down into the marsh, sometimes in knee deep water, to look for critters for my program participants.

I had a fantastic group of kids from the Jasper County Boy’s and Girl’s Club out on the salt marsh at the Coastal Discovery Museum this morning.We talked about what critters live in the marsh, and which ones don’t, including frogs, snakes, and alligators, and how on the rare instance that an alligator is spotted in the marsh, it is because it is just passing through on its way elsewhere.

I did my usual tromping through the marsh off the second boardwalk to see what sort of critters I could scrounge up for the kiddos to inspect before we headed to the covered observation deck at the end the boardwalk. We had not been under the glorious shade of that deck for more than a few minutes before the children started shouting that there was an alligator in the marsh! I’m thinking surely not, they just have alligators on the brain, a common occurrence for children and tourists alike. But I’ll be darned if they weren’t right!

If you look right in the center of the photo, between the two sections of Spartina grass, you will see the head of the critter headed straight for us.

Yep, that’s right! An alligator in the salt marsh, mere feet from where I had been in the marsh myself just a few minutes before.

I told everyone that I was done with the marsh walking for the day, lol. Despite being a bit scary, the kids were so excited to see the gator that it made my day.